Friday, May 27, 2005

Let This Be a Lesson To You

Slogging through your mid-thirties has some advantages. For one, you are not yet slogging through your mid-forties, which I understand is just like your mid-thirties, only with older children and hot flashes. Also, by now you have learned a few useful things about yourself. If you are me (and if you were, it would be crowded in these pants), the things you have learned are deceptively simple and take at least a decade to fully comprehend. For instance:

You can do everything. Just not well, and not all at once.

When I was fourteen, I gave up ballet abruptly. I went to class one Monday and couldn’t imagine setting foot in class on Tuesday or ever again, as it turned out. This wouldn’t have been a problem except it was June and my mother, who worked full time, had planned on having me at ballet school until September. Lacking anything else to do, I spent an entire summer at home, making Italian food from a huge untouched cookbook my parents had received as a wedding present. My mother would come home to a meal of home-made tortellini in broth and ox-tail stew -- always so refreshing in mid-August. I never again approached cooking with such brio, but I certainly know how to prepare both the simple and the complicated piatti.

So why is it that Daughter is going to grow up believing every recipe I know begins with the phrase “Remove box from freezer”? Between The Hiphugger, Daughter’s fantastically variable after-school schedule, and my new strange hobby of blogging, something had to give. We can have veggie burgers (I use only the organic Purina Human Chow, thank you) and our big loud life, or we can have individual home-made pot pies and no after-school activities.

But if Daughter has no after-school activities, she will never get tired enough to sleep.

And if Daughter doesn’t sleep at a reasonable hour, I will be forced to stay up all night doing my work; then I won’t sleep.

After four or five days without sleep, I will be found wandering the bedroom section of Ikea, crawling into a bed named Knöpfgrübl and sobbing hysterically. I can either take you through what happens after I start pelting the Ikea security guards with soggy meatballs, or you can take my word for it.

Fine dining can wait.

Just because something is simple doesn’t mean you can do it.

I can’t knit. No, that’s not entirely accurate. I understand how to knit; I simply cannot create anything useful with this skill. I have more excess energy than a Yorkshire terrier so when knitting became fashionable for a few minutes several years ago, doing something with my hands while watching television sounded like a perfect pastime.

What I didn’t understand was that even though knitting and purling are simple to learn, you must keep a constant tension on the yarn in order to create a consistently-sized object. It wasn’t as noticeable on the scarf I made last winter [as of May 27, 2005, the only project I actually completed], but gauge is non-negotiable on any fitted clothing. In the basket by my armchair is a half-finished sweater: one sleeve could be a cozy for a Ford Expedition, the other sleeve would constrict a toddler’s thumb. My research into how one shrinks half a sweater in the dryer had proven fruitless thus far. I’m open to suggestions.


Loving another person doesn’t preclude thinking about ways to kill them.

I have never loved another adult the way I love Consort. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t make me laugh. He knows me better than anyone and still loves me. While he may not be perfect for everyone, he is certainly perfect for me.

But if he doesn’t soon figure out that dirty clothes on top of the hamper is not the same as dirty clothes in the hamper, I’m selling him for parts.


Beware the Wrong Adjective.

This one comes directly from my mother. When I was a child, she’d be flipping through Vogue and point out some woman wearing a skirt made of oven mitts and Christmas tinsel.

“See that?” she’d sneer. “Notice how it’s described as being ‘witty’. When a fashion editor calls something ‘witty”, he means ‘ugly and unflattering’, trust me.”

She’s right. In fashion, nothing should be described as fun (bizarre), whimsical (puerile) or theatrical (you've been cast as Brunhilde). When dining, it’s best to shy away from a restaurant described as fun (loud), hot (loud, with poor service) or fusion (loud, with a dark chocolate and herring sauce on your veal). In potential dates, avoid fun (alcoholic), artistic (unemployed alcoholic) and passionate (alcoholic, and not unfamiliar with a restraining order).

In fact, "fun" might be a neon-lit caveat for any endeavor if you’re over the age of eighteen.

The Universe Is Listening

This one has been humbling. The minute I say “I will never (fill in blank) again!”, the Wheels of the Universe start grinding inexorably forward to make sure I will (fill in blank) again, usually within the week and in front of the people who heard me swear never to do it again.

Now, instead of saying “I will never…“, I try to say “Gee, I cannot imagine the circumstances under which this would happen”. It says virtually the same thing, but doesn’t get the Universal Wheels a-whirling with such vehemence.

I would tell you I never say “I never say…“, but I think we all know how that would turn out.

And in print, no less.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Kate said...

I've been reading your blog for about two weeks now. I think it's brilliant, and that is an adjective that I rarely use. I have only one question: why aren't you writing acerbic witty dialogue for some TV show? I admired your film career, but feel your true forte may be writing. Please consider it.

On a different topic, may I ask you a question about the hip hugging baby holding device that you sell? My little sister is expecting. She is petite; she is five feet tall exactly - if she stands on her toes. I think she would find this device really helpful when the baby arrives, but am concerned about, well, size. Will your contraption work for someone who weighed 100 pounds dripping wet (pre-pregnancy)and is so tiny that she still gets carded? I'd really appreciate any guidance in this matter. Thanks you! Kate

8:55 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

First of all, wow. Thanks. I save brilliant for Dorothy Parker, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell and the salsa at a local restaurant, but I am quite pleased to be found entertaining. I'd love to find the right place to scribble, but television writers rarely see their own children.
Now,Hiphugger. I am 5'3", and while not 100 pounds, I'm not very large, and it was originally fitted on me. We have fitted women from a size 0 to a size 22, and those are the ones I am aware of.

Hope that helps.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

You no doubt have an apt point regarding TV writers not seeing their children. Though, to be honest, I never picture TV writers actually having children. In interviews, they describe their neuroses at length and any picture of their writing quarters usually bears an astonishing resemblance to a bunker, sealed for decades until the danger passes...Perhaps, when daughter is older, you could be a pioneer - the TV writer that has a child and lives above ground! In the meantime, consider compiling your blogs, calling them essays, and getting them published as a collection. I'm sort of surprised a publisher hasn't approached you yet.

Regarding the hip hugger, thanks so much for the information. I have forwarded the website address to little sister and her consort.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Kate, I love your enthusiasm, and I agree that I would love to watch a television show written by Quinn. But you must understand that the television industry is not particularly susceptible to pioneers in terms of working conditions, as it is a voracious beast that eats product (and therefore time) indiscriminately. Living in LA, I know parents of daughter's classmates who are television writers, and I have observed that they either spend all their time in their pajamas waiting for another job (which makes them valuable for carpools, but not particularly reliable for the mortgage), or they see their children a few times a year, when their show is on hiatus. Personally, I'd rather see Quinn as a columnist or essayist (I call her the Gen-X Erma Bombeck, which I guess simply dates ME), who has a great homelife both from choice, and of necessity because it feeds her work.

12:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home